Al Gore & the 2000 Presidential Election Recount

Instructor: Ashley Kannan

Ashley has taught history, literature, and political science and has a Master's Degree in Education

This lesson will take a look at the presidential election of 2000 and its subsequent recount process. This heated election between Al Gore and George Bush captured the attention of the nation with Florida taking center stage in the recount.

The Vice President Who Wished to Become the President

The political career of Al Gore started in 1977 as a Democrat representative from the state of Tennessee. He became senator in 1985. In 1988, while still serving as senator, Gore had ran for president but dropped out.

Then-Senator Al Gore
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When he and then-governor Bill Clinton won the presidential election of 1992, Al Gore became vice president. His tenure was defined by an extreme loyalty to President Clinton. He advised the president on environmental issues and supported wider use of the internet and computer technology to generate economic growth. He believed that he and Clinton would form 'a new generation of leadership.'

When President Clinton was embroiled in the scandal involving former White House intern, Monica Lewinsky, Gore was publicly supportive of his president, stating publicly that 'He is the president of the country' and 'He is my friend.'

When the time had come, Gore envisioned the 2000 presidential election as the moment when he would move from vice president to the office of the president. After a relatively smooth primary, Gore was nominated as the Democratic nominee for president. His opponent was the Republican Governor of Texas, George W. Bush.

Bush v. Gore: The Campaign

The 2000 presidential campaign was a competitive one. Both candidates were very close in polling, without one being able to fully pull away from the other. Gore insisted on continuing the economic prosperity that defined the Clinton presidency. Gore embraced an intellectual demeanor that showed him as cerebral and reserved. For his part, the Republican nominee sought to restore honor to the president's office. He came across as authentic and relaxed in contrast to Gore.

These differences emerged on election night. The Gore campaign strategy was focused on winning the larger states, ones with greater electoral value. Accordingly, Gore was able to post wins in electorally rich states, like New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, and California.

The Bush Campaign focused on states in the South and other states that by themselves were not electorally significant but if added up could represent significant value. The Bush campaign won Al Gore's home state of Tennessee and West Virginia, which rarely voted Republican in political contests.

On election night, initial exit polls had determined that the state of Florida had been placed in the Vice President's column. News organizations, like the Associated Press, had made this determination based on polls located in the Eastern time zone portion of the state.

These projections had not acknowledged that polls in the panhandle were still open. After these polls had closed, the same news organizations retracted the original projection and called the state for Governor Bush. It had remained as such for some time, prompting Vice President Gore to call the Governor to concede.

As the evening wore on, news organizations were compelled once again to move the state into the proverbial 'too close to call category.' This prompted the Vice President to rescind his concession. As other states were called, it was evident that Florida was going to decide the election.

Without Florida, both candidates fell short of the required 270 electoral votes needed to become President of the United States. Governor Bush stood at 245 electoral votes, while Vice President Al Gore was at 266.

Bush v. Gore: The Recount

The nation woke up the next morning without a winner in the presidential election. Neither side was willing to concede. The Bush campaign pointed to their victory in Florida, citing that their candidate had won the state by 1,784 votes. Given the closeness, Florida Electoral Law automatically insisted upon a recount.

With this, the Gore campaign started the volley of recount claims. They varied from the misleading use of the 'Butterfly Ballot' to the insistence that all votes be counted, regardless of time and deadline. The Gore campaign also insisted that votes in specific counties be counted by hand, in order to ensure that votes were properly tabulated and recorded. For his part, Al Gore deferred to his legal team and insisted that his primary efforts were directed at ensuring all votes had been counted.

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